Subject line personalisation


Is Rumpelstiltskin on your list?

Personalisation in the subject line is great thing, making an email more personal can only be a good thing, unless you go too far and get a bit stalky if you get too familiar.
The effectiveness of subject line personalisation is a combination of how you use it and the rapport of each recipient.

Back in the old days of B2B acquisition emailing where postal marketers applied the same method to email, ie: buy a list; they would use personalisation in the subject line to try and fool the recipient into thinking they had a prior relationship with the sender that they had forgotten about.

You see it in real spam every day, where they take the prefix from your email address to try to get you to open it. It’s a numbers game, sometimes the prefix might actually make sense but rarely.

Nowadays people are wiser because it’s been done to death and everyone knows, it’s also hard to make a subject line make sense with personalisation.
Subsequently unless the rapport is great, personalised subject lines are likely to be treated with suspicion.

The subject line is a title, a teaser, the start of a story, a brief contents list if you’re out of ideas adding my name to it will be hard to have it make sense, eg:

“Todays top deals for you Andy” or “Andy, here are the 3 best things to happen this week”
or even worse “3 super cheap holidays for Andy” – not even addressing me.

It’s like a brand is shouting “I KNOW YOUR NAME, YOU MUST NOW OPEN MY EMAIL!”.
That’s not going to work, unless of course I’m Rumpelstiltskin at which point I will of course be compelled to do so.

There are a few of angles which can help though:

Only do this if the data is right.

If there is a chance that you don’t have the right first name, don’t chance it.
Either get the segment perfect or do some build up and ask the question, link to a form and then personalise the people who update their profiles.

If you personalise the subject, personalise the whole email.
Just adding a first name to a subject and nothing else will be an obvious gimmick and will not be popular, unless it’s really really funny. If you can make the whole email personalised or at least seem it, the recipient will get that personal touch from you. This is more than just putting in the first name where you can and you need to use data about them which you have earned not bought otherwise they’ll hate you.

Don’t do it every time

you can do it every time if you like but the pattern will get dry and you’ll just be wasting inbox space. Your from name is where the rapport starts and the subject is the priority.
Adding personalisation every so often, for a special email, will get that boost.
This can be a handy tool for early re-engagement, people who haven’t opened for 3-6 months, for instance.

Get it in the inbox snippet preview

This is a cheeky little trick. As you know, most inboxes will take the top line or two (or three – iPhone6+) of your email’s copy and stick it after the subject line. The idea was to give users that extra bit of information to help them decide and help avoid the odd click-bait subject line. Of course lazy marketers haven’t noticed this and still insist on having “can’t this email…” blurb at the top so that’s what ends up in the inbox, doh!
The idea is to make that very top line in the very top left of the content elaborate and compliment the subject line.
This is a great spot for a first name. In the inbox, after the bold subject line, in lighter text will be your name and the start of the story cut off by the inbox where you will then be compelled to open the email to see the rest of the sentence that your name was in. Alright that might be a little exaggerated but the point is clear.

Here’s a little example from Gmail’s desktop webapp:



Why not give it a go or even do it on a content A/B test.



image created from screenshot of “Once Upon a Time” TV show and a photo of an iPhone 6+